Morocco – Gordon Igesund has called up quite a few younger faces to his squad this week, as he looks to the future following Bafana Bafana’s failure to make it to the 2014 Fifa World Cup. And the youngest of the lot is 19-year-old Kgosietsile “Kgosi” Ntlhe.
Ntlhe was first called up by Igesund just over a year ago when he was part of the squad that played friendlies against Brazil in Sao Paulo and Mozambique in Nelspruit.
The young left-back didn’t play in those games, and it remains to be seen if Igesund will give him a chance in Friday’s friendly against Morocco in Agadir. More likely, Ntlhe will play in the training match against a Moroccan club side on Monday evening.
Either way, the Peterborough United man, speaking at his team’s luxurious hotel in Agadir, says he is determined to make the most of the experience.
“We will see how it goes, I just want to get my head down and train and learn from the manager,” said Ntlhe.
“And learn from the other left-back (Tsepo) Masilela. I hear he is a good player. If I play, it will be a bonus for me.”
Ntlhe’s lack of information about Masilela stems purely from the fact that a man who left South Africa as a 12 year old does not get to see much of the Bafana Bafana team or the Premier Soccer League in action.
Ntlhe was born in Pretoria, and as a child played for Juventus. This, clearly, was not the Turin giants, but an amateur team in his home town of Mabopane.
“I don’t think it was even a proper team,” says Ntlhe. “It was just friends who got together and we had names for teams. We didn’t play on grass, we played on sand. Everyone enjoyed it so we just did it.”
Ntlhe’s move to England came when his mother was moved over there for her job as a nurse. Ntlhe’s father passed away, and with no one to take care of them in Mabopane, after a year learning English at the Lord Milner school in the Limpopo Province, he and his sister moved to Milton Keynes, just outside London to join their mother in 2006.
A young Ntlhe didn’t play football at his school in England, but used to play socially after hours with friends. His big break came when he was spotted by Eddie Stein (along with his brother Mark, a South Africa-born, former professional footballer in England), training with Stein’s academy in Milton Keynes.
When he was around 15, Ntlhe was invited for trials at Peterborough, and six months later, they offered him a contract.
“I have been at Peterborough for around five years now,” he says.
“They have looked after me, I don’t even see them as a football club any more, I just see them as family.”
Ntlhe made his senior debut for Peterborough towards the end of the 2011/12 season in the English Championship, and the following campaign did enough for Igesund to give him the call.
His career was stalled slightly in February by a broken leg, and Peterborough were relegated to League One at the end of last season. Nthle is now back playing again, and the “Posh” are flying high, just a point off the top of the table, but the youngster has lost his place in Darren Ferguson’s side in the last few games.
His call up to face Morocco, he admits, did come as a bit of a shock.
“After I found out the bad news (about not qualifying) for the World Cup I didn’t think there were any more games, so it came as a bit of a surprise really,” he admits.
Of Bafana’s 21-man squad, only centre-back Siyanda Xulu of FC Rostov in Russia had not made it into camp in time to take part in their first training session in Agadir on Wednesday.
Xulu, however, could well start against Morocco as Igesund looks to give some of his younger players a chance, with this one of few friendlies in preparation for the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers.
Talented Lokeren playmaker Ayanda Patosi, Lech Poznan midfielder Daylon Claasen and Mamelodi Sundown’ attacking midfielder Bongani Zungu are others in line for a start against the Atlas Lions.